Clergy Blog - December 2017

Change yet again!

"Change and decay in all around I see..." so wrote Henry Francis Lyte in the hymn 'Abide with me'; as Gill reminded us in October we are certainly going through change in the parish at the moment but, thankfully, little decay!

Michael SargentI am, I imagine, one of the few active people in the congregation who can claim to have experienced three interregna [or vacancies].  We have been fortunate that in the past seventy years we have had just three vicars.

So what have I learned - John Henry Molyneux was a clergyman in the old style - Book of Common Prayer with an occasional dip into the revised services of 1928 that hardly took off.  Things had remained more or less the same since 1662 and certainly those who founded the present St Edward's would see little differences in services that they had way back in 1849.

Along came a young Andrew Girling fresh from a spell as Chaplain at Hull University - the church continued to flourish but there were changes afoot - the Liturgical Commission began producing a Series of booklets [Series I, Series II and finally Series III] with a view to producing services in a more accessible form. "The new vicar keeps making changes!" was a general moan but Andrew could do little about it because by 1980 the Alternative Service Book was produced and churches were encouraged to adopt it - perhaps with changing ideas and values in society it was a case of sink or swim and so we got used to these new, and largely acceptable forms of service.

Andrew left and within six months or so Martin arrived and in no time at all the same moans were coming about changes being made but, like Andrew, he had little choice - ASB, we were told by a higher authority, had had its day and was superseded by Common Worship - a resource book rather than a series of services!

Martin's style was to adapt to an ever-moving congregation and ensure that the variety of services would cater for most tastes - even a pedant like me could see the sense in his approach and to learn to accept the differing styles of worship and to acknowledge that his ministry was truly effective.

Now Martin has left and we wait with eager expectation that St Edward's will be allowed to continue to flourish with a similar variety of services about which few can really grumble, though with, perhaps, a different slant on them!

As I read what I have written before sending it off to the editors, I have just seen in the paper that the Archbishop [of Canterbury???] describes his time as a Parish Priest as the most stressful of all the jobs he has had - surely we need to bear this in mind as we prepare for our new incumbent and to do our utmost to ensure that s/he does not capitulate under the demand put upon them!

I did make a passing reference to 'decay' in the opening paragraph and though there is little decay in the fabric of St Edward's there is, alas!, a sign of decay in society in general that the church has to contend with; a recent report in the Church Times suggested that 43% or so of the population claim to be of 'no religion' and even though many people would acknowledge some spiritual values there are many places where our Lord's words, "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them" are literally true of many church congregations who struggle with the upkeep of their churches - those of us who minister in churches around York know only too well that a 'good congregation' is regarded as getting into double figures!

Possibly fewer than half the funeral services taken at the Crematorium are 'religious' and the number of church weddings diminishes year on year: music at such services becomes problematic as fewer young people know many, if any, hymns and so the repertoire becomes very limited.

Thankfully, we in this parish are spared many of these problems but as part of the world-wide church we need to realise that we have a duty to do our bit to halt the decay that is prevalent in many areas of life.

May it be that as we prepare to welcome the Christ-child into our broken and divided world his message of hope will arouse in us the words of the Advent Collect to 'cast off the works of darkness and to put upon us the armour of light'.

A peaceful and blessed Christmas to you all.

Michael Sargent [Licensed Reader]